Fraternity sues University after being sanctioned with unreliable evidence - Taidgh Barron


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -  A Purdue fraternity remains on probation despite the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR) admitting the evidence used to sanction the fraternity was not reliable.

According to documents obtained from the University by the Exponent, those sanctions stem from an incident in February of last year when paramedics were called to Shreve Hall to attend to a severely intoxicated female under the age of 21. While inebriated, the woman told her Resident Assistant she was served “jungle juice” at Kappa Sigma that evening. The Shreve RA cited Kappa Sigma in her report and a subsequent investigation by OSRR was triggered. OSRR determined Kappa Sigma hosted an unregistered function that evening and that underage adults were served hard alcohol from a Gatorade container.

Kappa Sigma denied all of OSRR’s assertions, from hosting a party to owning a Gatorade container. According to Adam Hufford, the president of Kappa Sigma at the time of the incident, members of the fraternity were returning late from sorority formals on the night they were accused of holding an unregistered function.

“I was there that night. By no means was there a party,” Hufford said.

In late September 2015, the OSRR report was sent to the Interfraternity Council (IFC) Judicial Board to determine if Kappa Sigma should face sanctions. The Judicial Board presented the OSRR report as its only evidence against the fraternity. No OSRR representatives or witnesses interviewed by the OSRR were present at the hearing. In fact, because the names of witnesses were redacted from the report sent to the IFC, the Judicial Board “did not know who the witness was,” according to a letter sent from the Judicial Board to Kappa Sigma.

Immediately after the hearing, the IFC Judicial Board charged that it “was more likely than not” Kappa Sigma had violated university rules by hosting an unregistered party and serving hard alcohol to an underage individual. The fraternity was subsequently placed on probation through May 7, 2016.

It was not until after Kappa Sigma filed suit against the University in February 2016 that the OSRR admitted the report they gave to the IFC was based off suspect evidence. In a letter sent to the IFC and Kappa Sigma by Associate Dean Jeffery Stefancic in early March, Stefancic wrote, “The re-investigation has turned up no reliable evidence that the female resident was at Kappa Sigma that evening or that Kappa Sigma hosted a function.”

The admission, however, has not altered the probation status of the fraternity.

According to Doug Kowert, the President of the Kappa Sigma House Corporation, this isn’t the only time the University has wrongly sanctioned Kappa Sigma. Kowert claimed his organization was wrongly sanctioned on two additional instances in the last five years due to investigations by the OSRR and Dean of Students that were quietly retracted after the punishment was handed out.

In 2011, the fraternity was suspended during Boiler Gold Rush for an alleged alcohol violation but was emailed by the Dean of Students five weeks later that there was “no consistency in the information that we have gathered.” Kowert went on to claim in 2012, the OSRR “coerced” members of Kappa Sigma into making statements in an investigation that later went on to produce no reports or documents, but resulted in sanctions.

“Taking legal action is not what we wanted to do, but it was the only thing we could do to change the system,” Hufford said. The next hearing for the lawsuit will be in the Tippecanoe Circuit Court at 10 this morning.

Purdue has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Steven Schultz from the Office of Legal Council commented that “We understand that Kappa Sigma’s ultimate grievance concerns a ruling by the Interfraternity Council, an independent student organization. We’ve pointed out to the court that the IFC’s ruling is not part of the lawsuit.”

The OSRR has declined to comment on any of the Exponent’s questions regarding Kappa Sigma’s probation and the subsequent lawsuit.

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